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  • Baxter Bell, MD

Back to the Garden

It seems hard to imagine that Spring has sprung already, after the seeming sameness of days and weeks during the Pandemic. Yet, as it does each year, once again the season of blossoming is here and with it the uptick in time spent in the garden. Almost exactly 6 months ago I shared with you both a conversation about gardening with my landscape designer student Ann and a practice to help prepare you for time spent in the garden. (if you missed that post, here is the link).

Just recently, a long-distance Zoom student of mine reached out as she started to spend more time in the garden, prepping beds for the coming planting time. She noticed that after working in the garden for several hours, it was challenging to stand up straight, and there was lots of tightness in the front hips and thighs as well as fatigue in the lower back. Astutely, she pointed out that perhaps this should not be surprising given the forward tipping and rounding the body that is often needed to work the earth, pull weeds, till the soil and such.

Some days, my student may only be in the garden for 1-2 hours, but on others she could be working for 5-6 hours a day, and she was hoping to develop a home practice she could do after a big, demanding day laboring in the garden. Curious about what she might be doing to attend to her body while she is gardening, I asked her just that!

Although she does take periodic standing breaks, and even slips away on longer days in the garden to catch one of my Live Streaming classes, she was not doing a lot of yoga breaks in the garden. And although we did come up with a targeted post-gardening practice for her to do, I suggested that an equally helpful approach might be to integrate yoga-based movement breaks during her gardening time, which just might prevent or even eliminate her postural, hip and back related concerns altogether.

And I know she is not alone in her surge of more time spent in this wonderful pursuit, nor is she alone in the potential negative effects on the body that can result from time well-spent outdoors and interacting with nature. Gardening, whether for growing food or creating beautiful spaces, is such a valuable endeavor for so many people, and with a few, periodic breaks while doing it we can feel so much better for our bodies. Viewed from a certain perspective, on a very basic level, it is yet another form of physical exercise, but one that has a lot of repetitive movements and challenging postures.

With that in mind, I share with you today a Yoga Gardening Practice which you can integrate into your gardening times this spring! Happy prepping and planting!

Gardening Practice: instead of waiting until after gardening to stretch back out, consider doing some yoga while you garden!

1) Set a timer if squatting or bending for longer periods: come up to standing and do any of the following dynamic sequences for 1 minute, such as Dynamic Standing Arms Overhead, Dynamic Crescent Moon, Dynamic Warrior 2, and Dynamic Warrior 1. Click the links below to watch video practices:

2) Spider Slides: standing upright, hands on the edge of a raised garden bed or short retaining wall, or with hands on ground, using Intelligent forward bend from hips.

3) When you have to bend down, try bending using the Fig Leaf Forward Fold, or as I refer to it these days “Intelligent Forward Bending”.

4) Transitions: the way you get up and down to the ground can also impact how you feel at the end of the day. Consider different ways to mindfully do that. Here is one way, and you can find more suggestions on my Baxter Bell Yoga YouTube channel.

5) A great way to release tension in the front hips is doing what I call Dynamic High Lunge to Drop Knee Lunge. You can use the raised edge of garden box instead of the blocks.

6) In addition to the lower back, posture and hip challenges, the hands can be impacted by gardening. I recommend periodic Wrist Releases if pruning, grasping, digging, etc: Paint the Fence, Hypnotist Hands, or “wrist flossing” (here is one of the 3 variations of wrist flossing.

7) Deliberately stop your gardening at some point, stand or sit in the space and tune into your body, breath, thoughts, and the beauty of the garden for at least 2 minutes.

8) Carry on!


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